“The Dark Knight Rises” is in one of the most precarious of summer blockbuster movie spots, in that it manufactured so much hype due to a combination of another mysterious marketing campaign and its predecessor's enormous success, that anything less than best-picture-worthy scriptwriting and jaws-on-the-floor action scenes would make it seem like a disappointment. Christopher Nolan came off back-to-back masterpieces in “The Dark Knight” and “Inception”, and it’s almost unrealistic to expect anything as satisfying. Moreover, in a summer that produced not one but two $200 million%20 comic book blockbusters, the stakes are undoubtedly high.
In fairness, this is what makes TDKR both a colossal success, and a slight letdown. It stands alone as the best comic book movie of the year, and may yet make the most money of any comic book movie of the year. It is fast-paced and entertaining, with more humor and catharsis than “The Dark Knight” and bigger action than “Inception”. It closes the Batman trilogy with a triumphant clattering, and nips the buds of all the loose story-ends fans were expecting. The acting shines, including performances by Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the directing is fearless.
Nolan has put himself in one of his own impossible predicaments, trying to top his prior work and show the audience something incredible while offering up a satisfying end to the series. This is where the cracks begin to show, in an almost inevitable fashion.
Bane is the ultimate villain, plunging Gotham into more chaos than it’s ever seen; but his work is overshadowed two-fold, because of the mastermind pulling the strings within the scope of the movie, and because of the masterful Joker performance given by the late Heath Ledger in the previous film. Bane could have been the reincarnation of Darth Vader and audiences still would have (unfairly) written him off as not-as-good-as-the-Joker. Couple that with storytelling that reduces him to a henchman and a disappointing exit, and it just feels lacking.
Suspension of disbelief is certainly no stranger to superhero movies, but never so much in a Nolan superhero film. There are scenes in the movie that will have fanboys fighting for years about how realistic they were. The pacing went from staggered to hurried in an attempt to neatly fit everything into an almost three-hour window. And the conclusion is sure to leave many wondering if Nolan was really happy with ending the series, or if he has plans to work the continuing saga into a Justice League movie, or another Batman movie.
There’s no doubt that many nits have been picked when it comes to “The Dark Knight Rises”, and not because anyone wanted it to fail, but because they expected more. Many of those expectations were unfair and unrealistic, yet that is exactly what Nolan was happy to do in setting an almost impossibly high bar for the third film. Yet, in an era of mindless sequels and big money moviemaking, this is still a breath of fresh air because of its respect for the viewers and the clear effort that was put forth. Nolan’s joy of the craft and respect for the art is evident in every frame. There’s no question that this trilogy will stand as one of the greatest in comic book movie history, as well as cinematic history.
Jonathan Langer is a staff writer for T-Shirts.com, where you can find a huge selection of Batman tees. Jonathan gives this film 4 out of 5 stars.